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Map of Corsica

Cliffs near Calanches in Corsica : Click to enlarge picture
Nearly two million people visit Corsica each year, drawn by the mild climate and by some of the most diverse landscapes in all Europe. Nowhere in the Mediterranean has beaches finer than the island's perfect half-moon bays of white sand and transparent water, or seascapes more inspiring than the red porphyry Calanches of the west coast. Even though the annual visitor influx now exceeds the island's population seven or eight times over, tourism hasn't spoilt the place: there are a few resorts, but overdevelopment is rare and high-rise blocks are confined to the main towns.

Bastia, capital of the north, was the principal Genoese stronghold, and its fifteenth-century citadelle has survived almost intact. Of the island's two large towns, this is the more purely Corsican, and commerce rather than tourism is its main concern. Also relatively undisturbed, the northern Cap Corse harbours inviting sandy coves and fishing villages such as Macinaggio and Centuri-Port. Within a short distance of Bastia, the fertile region of the Nebbio contains a scattering of churches built by Pisan stoneworkers, the prime example being the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta at the appealingly chic little port of St-Florent.

To the west of here, L'Île-Rousse and Calvi, the latter graced with an impressive citadelle and fabulous sandy beach, are major targets for holiday-makers. The spectacular Scandola nature reserve can be visited by boat from the tiny resort of Porto, from where walkers can also strike into the wild Gorges de la Spelunca. Corte, at the heart of Corsica, is the best base for exploring the mountains and gorges of the interior which form part of the Parc Naturel Régional that runs almost the entire length of the island.

Sandy beaches and rocky coves punctuate the west coast all the way down to Ajaccio, Napoléon's birthplace and the island's capital, where pavement cafés and palm-lined boulevards are thronged with tourists in summer. Slightly fewer make it to nearby Filitosa, greatest of the many prehistoric sites scattered across the south. Propriano, the town perhaps most transformed by the tourist boom, lies close to stern Sartène, former seat of the wild feudal lords who once ruled this region and still the quintessential Corsican town.

More megalithic sites are to be found south of Sartène on the way to Bonifacio, a comb of ancient buildings perched atop furrowed white cliffs at the southern tip of the island. Equally popular Porto-Vecchio provides a springboard for excursions to the amazing beaches of the south. The eastern plain has less to boast of, but the Roman site at Aléria is worth a visit for its excellent museum.

Pages in section ‘Corsica’: Bastia, Calvi, Ajaccio, Ile Rousse, Aleria, Porto, Corte, Central Corsica, Golfe de Valinco, Sartène, Bonifacio, Porto-Vecchio, Bavella, Scandola, Girolata, La Marana, Cap Corse, Nebbio, Balagne, Travel details.

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